(Excerpted from chapter eight of Keepers of the Way)
In the original Greek the word church is ecclesia, meaning “the called out ones.” This verb chosen we heard Jesus use in John 15:19 has the same root word as the noun church. Jesus has chosen to call us, the Church, “out of the world.” We’re not the chosen ones as in the preferred ones and as opposed to the rejected ones. We’re the ones who’ve accepted the invitation, understood Jesus to say to each of us “I’ve chosen to call you out,” knowing He says it to all who will listen. It is from that posture we live in this world too often deaf to such truth. We live to let them know: He’s calling you. He’s chosen you, too.
Peter paints a picture of the contrast created between the world and Jesus’ called-out-ones. He admonishes in his first epistle:
For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:3-5)
This world—on the whole—is going one way. And we as followers of Jesus are simply going another—no, more than that, the other—way, the opposite way.
And we must remember that opposite can mean opposing and sometimes brings opposition.
We’re rejecting the world’s definitions of pleasure and success, rejecting the pursuit of fulfilling the appetites this world makes so primary. We’re not out to reject people, but there’s no softening the blow that we are indeed rejecting the prevailing worldview. And they “heap abuse” on us, mocking our convictions and portraying us as either ignorant or “holier-than-thou” and self-righteous when in all humility we are simply aiming to live a healthy life before God and make good choices, one day at a time, one day after another, one foot in front of the other, walking the Way.
However, these opposing forces mustn’t be ignored or denied. As Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper once said:
When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.
We’re not at war with the culture, but our rebellion is not unlike a battle as we keep to the Way. Especially when, as Kuyper puts it, erroneous and unhealthy principles begin to become the common sense. Rebellion is the only sane and right response.
That’s at least one reason Paul called it fighting “the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) and exhorts us to “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13) And Jesus did not say without reason, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.” (Matthew 10:34)
As American Christians we’ve grown accustomed to a measure of peace, a self-assured—if sometimes self-deceived—feeling that our society basically agrees with us, that somehow going with the flow of our culture was mostly resonant with following Jesus and His Way. This may have at times in the past been more or less the case. Those days—if they ever existed at all—are over.